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February Brings Us a Few Important Celebrations

American Heart Month, Chinese New Year and the most romantic holiday of the year, Valentine’s Day. Plus, Superbowl Sunday is the first Sunday in February this year… Pittsburg Steelers VS. Green Bay Packers!
Image of Dried Cranberries
Celebrate American Heart Month by following some of these easy tips:
  • Don’t stand around the food area at parties; this only invites unconscious snacking on usually high-fat foods.
  • Don’t forget our ready-to-go Steamed Carrots, Steamed Beets and Steamed Kidney Beans. They are fast and low-calorie and will keep you filled up so you won’t be looking for other higher calorie foods!
  • Serve plenty of fruits and vegetables, cut into easy bite-size pieces or mixed into a party mix. Melissa’s has some great suggestions like dried sweet roasted corn, dried fruits like cranberries, blueberries & strawberries, or trail mix with raisins. Eating these healthy snacks can also help fulfill your 5-a-day for better health requirement!
  • Don’t eat wasted calories that have no nutritional value. Stay away from high-sugar sodas and head to the bottled water. There are many new flavored waters that are very satisfying. Remember, drinking 8 glasses of water a day will help you stay healthy and look better.
  • Meat alternatives are the greatest thing created. Veggie hot dogs and burgers made with low-fat vegetarian ingredients are a winner for taste and health. Eat them with all the extras for a very tasty meal; Stay away from the fatty mayo and secret sauce! You can even top them with veggie cheese!
  • Eat tofu in your daily diet. Studies have shown that tofu can help reduce the risk for cancer. It can be used as a sauce ingredient instead of mayo and even substituted for eggs. Try cubing some into your next stir-fry or soup and see how easy it really is.
Make 2011 a healthy year. Starting with February American Heart Month, you will be well on your way!

Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is February 3, 2011 this year. It is the Year of the Rabbit and the Chinese lunar year 4708. There are celebrations and festivities with many traditions which include:

Plants and Flowers:
Every traditional Chinese household should also have live blooming plants to symbolize rebirth and new growth. Flowers are believed to be symbolic of wealth and high positions in one’s career. Lucky is the home with a plant that blooms on New Year’s Day, for that foretells a year of prosperity. In more elaborate settings, plum blossoms just starting to bloom are arranged with bamboo and pine sprigs, the grouping symbolizing friends? The plum blossom also signifies reliability and perseverance; the bamboo is known for its compatibility, its utility and its flexible stems for furniture and other articles; the evergreen pine evokes longevity and steadiness. Other highly prized flowers are the pussy willow, azalea, peony and water lily or narcissus. The Chinese firmly believe that without flowers, there would be no formation of any fruits. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have flowers and floral decorations. They are the emblems of reawakening of nature; they are also intimately connected with superstition and with the wish for happiness during the ensuing year.

Oranges and Tangerines:
Etiquette dictates that you must bring a bag of oranges and tangerines and enclose a lai see when visiting family or friends anytime during the two-week long Chinese New Year celebration. Tangerines with leaves intact assure that one’s relationship with the other remains secure. For newlyweds, this represents the branching of the couple into a family with many children. Oranges and tangerines are symbols for abundant happiness.
Image of Kumquats
Candy Tray:
The candy tray arranged in either a circle or octagon is called "The Tray of Togetherness" and has a dazzling array of candy to start the New Year sweetly. After taking several pieces of candy from the tray, adults places a red envelope (lai see) on the center compartment of the tray. Each item represents some kind of good fortune.

Kumquat - symbolizes prosperity (gold)
Coconut - symbolizes togetherness
Peanuts - symbolizes long life
Longan - symbolizes many good sons
Buddha's Hand - given as gifts to represent good luck and fortune for the year
Mandarin Oranges represent wealth.
Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lan) encourages youth and wealth.
Lettuce also symbolizes wealth.
Mushrooms represent coins signifying riches and prosperity.
Green Onions symbolize brilliance and intelligence.
Won Tons are served to guests as a blessing for good fortune.
Asian Noodles are served to represent long life...the longer the noodle, the longer the life.


Valentine's Day
February also brings us the romantic holiday of Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day dates back to 269 A.D. when Emperor Claudius II forbade any marriages. Valentine would secretly marry couples and eventually got caught. Ironically, Claudius had executed Valentine on the holiday that honored Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage. The festival of Lupercalia followed, where boys drew the names of girls from a jar and paired up for the festivities. In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor Valentine as Saint Valentine and it has been referred to as such ever since. Today’s traditions including sending or giving flowers, candy, cards and a romantic evening with your loved one. Preparing a meal with your loved one is always special, too!
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